Big hair. No, like, really big hair. Tanned skin. And incredibly long nails. Meet the young women of Black Diamond. They're keen to go worldwide.
In Japanese, this style of fashion is dubbed "gal" (ギャル or gyaru). The look flies in the face of traditional Japanese notions of feminine beauty: pale skin and black hair. The subculture has its roots in 1990s Japanese youth fashion, when teens began dying their hair brown and hitting the tanning saloons.
Often, Westerners think this look is trying to copy foreigners; however, a better way to understand it is how teens in the West will dye their hair green to rebel. That's what is happening here.
Also, be aware that this fashion is not necessarily designed to appeal to Japanese men. Many men in Japan find the trend incredibly embarrassing (save for those fellas who dressed in the dude version of this fashion). Instead, this has largely been a subculture of women appealing to other women—something that is evident in the more extreme iterations, like "ganguro" (ガングロ), which was short for "intensely black", and "yamanba" (ヤマンバ), which referred to mountain witches!
But in around 2001, there was a "pale skin boom" in Japan, and the tanned gals seemed even more marginalized. The female subculture that Black Diamond is spearheading seems to be both a revival of the ganguro movement and a reaction to the decade long pale skin trend.
Black Diamond, though, doesn't consider itself ganguro, considering the word somewhat old-fashioned. Instead, the 100 member plus group calls itself a "kuro hada unit", with "kuro hada" (黒肌) meaning "black skin" or "dark skin".
Interestingly, Black Diamond doesn't really use the term "gal circle", which is what these gal groups or clubs were called during the last decade.
During the 2000s, the biggest gal circle was a Tokyo gal group called "Angeleek", which actually made members apply and interview via telephone to join. Angeleek held events at dance clubs where members would perform drill-team style dance routines.
Angeleek seems to have fizzled away, and Black Diamond is the spiritual successor, with members across Japan, meet-ups in Tokyo, and regular trips to Shibuya shopping spots and arcades for sticker picture fun. Elements of their fashion, like say the giant flowers in their hair, are reworkings of 1990s gal trends.
Black Diamond, however, doesn't seem content with just appearing in gal fashion magazines like Egg or simply appearing at Tokyo dance clubs. Via its Facebook page, the group sells gal fashion to those outside of Japan and actively tries to recruit non-Japanese members.
This week, Black Diamond announced it was planning to make "an original song and music video" to broadcast all over the globe. The unit is even trying to crowdfund the production costs.
Currently, on Black Diamond's YouTube and Facebook pages, the unit is holding "elections" for people to vote for their favorite singers in Black Diamond.
Will this be the group that truly takes gal fashion global? Is the world ready? Are you?
Photos: Black Diamond
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